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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 8, 2003 - Issue 82


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REZ-ROBICS For Couch Potato Skins Will Have You Laughing and Moving More Than Just Your Fork

by Suzanne Westerly

Rez-Robics - Drew Lacapa and Reggie MitchellYes, it's been a long wait since you were first told about the Rez-Robics videos in early 2001. Well, the wait is over, and you'll be impressed by the high quality of the videos that producers Pam Belgarde and Gary Rhine (and friends) created on a very tight budget.

I caught up with Pam at her home in California. "It's been quite a journey to get it completed. We're so happy to say that it's going out to Indian Country and people are loving it! We've received a great deal of positive feedback. I know it's because there just isn't anything else like it available, meaning the combination of entertaining and educating people at the same time. AND it's FREE!," Pam said enthusiastically.

Rez-Robics features Pam Belgarde (Ojibwe), a health promotion specialist, and martial artist, Reggie Mitchell (Navajo). The very attractive duo who obviously "walk their talk" lead an exercise class through several fun, easy, low-impact exercise segments that incorporate pow-wow dance steps and basic martial arts moves. The exercise segments are choreographed to popular contemporary Indian music, thanks to Tom Bee (Dakota) of SOAR productions, (who is interviewed in the video and talks openly about living with diabetes) and performed on a stylish set in Albuquerque, NM.

"I remember when Gary and I first talked about [making a fun health video] 10 years ago," said Pam. "Since then, diabetes has gotten progressively worse. Diabetes used to be a disease elders got, now it's common for people in their 40's and 50's to get it, and today even our young people are getting it."

Rez-Robics - Elaine Miles, Reggie Mitchell and Drew LacapaRez-Robics For Couch Potato Skins features actress Elaine Miles (Cayuse/Nez Perce), from the hit TV series Northern Exposure and the movie Smoke Signals, the effervescent comedian Drew Lacapa (White Mountain Apache/Hopi/Tewa) and Natay (Dine), a young and hip Rap/Hip-Hop artist. Drew starts out cracking jokes and making excuses why Indians don't like to exercise or eat healthy, but he finally admits he's been diagnosed with diabetes and he's scared. (Drew used to introduce himself as 300 pounds of love, but he has now lost a lot of that weight).

"Who in Indian country doesn't have family members with diabetes? It's an epidemic," said Pam. "I struggle with exercise just like everybody else does. We're all in the same boat, it's not easy for anyone, but we have to make it a priority."

The video's filled with Indian humor and Indian culture, there just isn't much out there like this video." Drew in a leopard skin body suit? "He's my hero for doing that," laughed Pam. "Drew and Elaine did such a good job with Indian humor."

The first video is made in segments, which makes it easy to use in health education classes. In one segment Drew loses a bet with Elaine, and now has to go to an exercise class with her, which he's obviously not too happy about.

In another segment "Reggie and I talk about healthy eating choices, the pros of eating at home, drinking water instead of pop. Another segment has a Top 10 List of why Skins don't exercise or eat healthy."

Rez-Robics - Drew Lacapa and Elaine MilesYou will hear the whole cast tell their personal story about diabetes in another segment. Each person has "little jewels of knowledge and experience people can learn from".

"While the credits run, you'll see some behind-the-scenes takes, some bloopers, and a big thank you list," said Pam. "The first tape is for your couch potato relatives, next tape is the exercise video. Don't feel you have to exercise to the whole one hour video," she said, "as long as you do the warm-up and cool-down. Maybe one day you'll feel like doing the whole thing, do whatever is comfortable for you.

"Exercise is also about the stuff we do every day on the Rez; like hauling hay or digging a fence post." Pam continued, "I believe variety is the spice of life. Go for a walk, ride a bike, whatever. Rez-Robics is just another option, and it's fun!"

"Reggie and I are available to come to your community for Rez-Robics diabetes prevention workshops. Part of my workshop addresses diabetes from a personal, cultural and global perspective." Some hints from Pam are: focus on eating foods you cook at home where you have more control over how it's made; don't go out to fast food restaurants all the time," where the food is cheap, processed, and filled with carbohydrates that breaks down into sugar in your system. "I've been on a yo-yo all my life, I've got to eat fresh green veggies and fruit (raw) as close to how it came from Mother Earth as I can. Nuts, seeds, meat, anything with no sugar. Eat as close to the way your ancestors ate pre-contact, pre-reservation," said Pam with a deeply caring and concerned voice. Contact: Pam Belgarde at (209) 388-1548 or

"Gary and I make a great team, I'm really blessed to have worked with Gary on this project, and I hope we work on more projects together." Besides being co-producer and writer, Gary is also the promoter ( and distributor.
Contact Gary Rhine at (310) 457-1617 or

Watch for more videos and projects created by the dynamic Pam Belgarde who began her career in public broadcasting as the first Producer/Director of Native America Calling, on American Indian Radio on Satellite (AIROS). As producer for Four Directions Health Communications, she talked about health issues every Friday. In 2001, Pam started her own independent production company, Well Native Productions.

She let me in on some future health projects that are educational but very importantly, fun! "My next big project is Extreme Rez-Robics for kids," said Pam, who couldn't contain her excitement about her future plans. No details yet, though. I will keep you updated when Pam gives the okay.

For Indians on or near the Navajo Nation, call 505-368-6499.
For Indians elsewhere, send a SASE and enclose a 12x15-priority mail envelope (found at the post office) with a $5 priority stamp on it to DreamCatchers, Inc., 23852 Pacific Coast Highway # 766, Malibu, CA, 90265.

If you're non-Indian and want a set of Rez-Robics, we ask that you make a minimum $25 donation to DreamCatchers, Inc., 23852 Pacific Coast Highway # 766, Malibu, CA, 90265 to assist with the free distribution to Indian communities. Include your donation with the self-addressed, stamped envelope as described above.

Suzanne Westerly can be reached at 310-924-5522 or .

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